There are many Scottish traditions for Hogmanay and New Year and one of the common treats was Black Bun, a very rich, dark, fruit cake. Originally eaten on the twelfth night, it soon became a traditional Hogmanay treat, a wee dram and a slice of Black Bun.
Not being a baker, the subject was being discussed about where to buy Black Bun, we turned to a local girl with a coffee shop who made her own cakes. She was up for the challenge although didn’t know what Black Bun was. The cake should be made well in advance to allow the flavours to develop but she didn’t make it until New Year’s Eve, however I was there to see it come out of the oven. It looked good but when she cut into it, it was too light in colour. The recipe she used was by a well-known English baker and sad to say, although very nice, it was not what our mums and grannies made. Our eager baker wants a report back and although she did follow a recipe, it neither looked nor tasted like the traditional moist, dark cakes we had been used to.
This spurred me on to look through my granny’s handwritten recipe book and this is what I found:
1/2 lb flour, pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder and rub in 1/4 lb margarine, make into a firm paste with cold water. Line a tin with the paste leaving enough for the top.
Mix together 1 lb flour, 1/2 lb sugar, 1/4 oz ground ginger, 1/4 oz cinnamon, 1 teaspoon black pepper, teaspoonful each baking soda and cream of tartar. 2 lbs large raisins, 2 lbs sultanas, 1/4 lb almonds, blanched and shredded. 2 oz lemon peel. Moisten all the ingredients with 1/2 pint milk. Mix thoroughly and pack into lined tin, cover neatly with the lid of paste. Moisten the edges and firm carefully, brush over with egg and prick with a fork. Bake in a moderate over for 3 hours.
Moderate oven: 325º-350ºF/160º-180ºC/Gas mark 3-4